Huntington Disease is a neurodegenerative disease and you are at risk if one or both of your parents had the disease. Each child has a 50/50 per cent chance of inheriting H.D. if at least one parent has Huntington’s. About 30,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with up to 200,000 at risk of inheriting HD. This disease is not confined to the U.S.–It is a global disease. Dr. George Huntington , first described the disease as “hereditary Chorea” in 1872. The word chorea is greek referring to involuntary movements that patients experience.
Unfortunately, for most patients the symptoms don’t appear till they are in their prime of life between the ages of 30-50. Sadly though adolescents, young children and the elderly can have HD. In the beginning stages of the disease there are subtle changes in mood, barely noticeable involuntary movements of the fingers and the inability to keep their feet still. You may note changes in gait which can cause a patient to stumble or fall about. Later they develop forgetfulness, their judgement may be impaired, speech slurred and have difficulty swallowing.
Patients do not die as a direct result of this disease but develop pneumonia, heart disease or other complications. They lose a lot of weight due to the constant involuntary movements of their extremities and become frail. In the course of my mother’s life with HD, she fell about even in the house, but had no serious injury, just bloody and bruised knees. Over a period of about eight years she had more difficulty walking, choked on her food, constantly moved her feet back and forth till she wore a hole in the linoleum where she sat at the kitchen table.
Find out more about Genetic Testing for HD and where to get help through the HDSA chapter or Center of Excellence nearest to you. Please contact HDSA by calling (1-800) 345-HDSA or via the Internet at www.hdsa.org.
Also, you can read the book A Marked Woman.